8 Powerful Running Drills To Improve Your Speed and Running Form

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Running drills are a great way to ramp up your speed and run with excellent form. If you’ve been following a training plan, but aren’t happy with the progress you’re making, running drills can improve that issue efficiently. 

We’ve selected the top running drills to help you run faster and improve your running technique. The drills do this by improving your running economy, strengthening the right muscles to make you run more powerfully, and improving your muscle memory for better performance.  

In this article, we’ll cover all of the following topics so that you can utilize speed training drills and running form drills as effectively as possible:

  • Benefits Of Running Drills
  • How to Incorporate Running Drills into Your Training Plan
  • When to Do Running Drills
  • Where to Do Running Drills
  • How Often to Do Running Drills
  • How Long to Do Running Drills
  • Top 4 Exercise Drills to Improve Running Form
  • Top 4 Exercise Drills to Improve Running Speed
A lady running in front of metal shutters, overlaid with text saying ' 8 running drills for speed and running form', with text at the bottom of the image saying 'Marathon Handbook'

Benefits Of Running Drills

The list of benefits from running drills is a long one. Once you see how they help your running performance, you’ll be motivated and excited to see these advantages for yourself. 

Your running becomes more efficient (in other words, you’re able to produce more oxygen with less effort from your muscles – think of this like your own personal miles per gallon). 

Drills strengthen your muscles and joints for more power, so you’re able to recruit the right muscles for the right tasks (for that, you’ll need strong hip flexors, core, quadriceps, and hamstrings).

They improve balance and coordination, also known as neuromuscular effectiveness. Balance is important since it improves the receptors in (primarily) your legs and feet, helping you anticipate sudden changes – and making your runs smoother, faster, and injury-free. 

Your running motions become more automatic, which improves your technique, making the movements more efficient. 

Drills improve your running cadence, which is a big part of performance and injury prevention

You’ll have improved muscle memory. Keep in mind, that the memory doesn’t actually occur in your muscles. Rather, the repetitive motion of the muscles becomes imprinted in your brain, which helps you then repeat the movements over and over. 

Running drills improve your cardiovascular condition – you’ll produce more oxygen, which increases your fitness level. From there, you’ll be equipped against fatigue, and much more likely to avoid hitting the wall or running out of stamina. 

Done in a slightly different way, drills can even be used as a warm-up, keeping your runs that much more simple. 

How to Incorporate Running Drills into Your Training Plan

A man running with high knees against a concrete wall

Now that you know the benefits of form and speed drills, you should know the best methods for mixing them into your training plan. 

When to Do Running Drills

When to do your running drills is pretty flexible. Here are the options: 

  • Before you run, after your warmup
  • In the middle or end of your run

However, if you save the exercise drills in the latter stages of your run, you may end up being too exhausted and won’t get the best results. 

We recommend doing them before you run (after a quick warmup) on the day of a short run.

If you save them for a long run day, you’ll end up taking strength from the run and using it up on the drills. They’re best meant to be done as a cross-training exercise. 

Where to Do Running Drills

While they can be done just about anywhere, the best place is on soft ground like dirt paths, grass, or a rubber running track – not concrete. 

How Often to Do Running Drills

You should perform running drills once or twice a week to enhance the long-term effects of doing them consistently.

You’ll still want to save some time for other types of crosstraining (like intervals or strength training), to give your body all it needs for optimum performance. 

How Long to Do Running Drills

The main idea is to push yourself a little further – or faster – each time.

Since you won’t need to do them every day, you should have ample time to recover in between, giving you the chance to increase each time. 

To start with, 20 meters (about 65 feet) is a good measuring point. Be sure to get the moves right first, then go as fast as you can. 

Related: Sprinting Vs Running: Differences + Benefits Of 2 Distinct Workouts

a lady running on a grass hill

Top 4 Exercise Drills to Improve Running Form

1. High Knees

This classic drill accentuates the running position, which builds up your calves, hamstrings, and glutes with more power for a typical run.

It also helps you turn over more quickly, increasing your speed, so High Knees are really great for both form and speed. 

Here’s how to do it:

Important notes:

  • Be sure to keep your back straight and shoulders up the whole time. It’s tempting to move forward or backward to help lift the knees with your body. Instead, focus on using the muscles from your legs and core to do the lifting. 
  • Focus on fast steps, without worrying too much about your speed going forward. The main goal is not covering ground, but focusing on the position and your form. 
  • Don’t let your arms hang at your sides. Moving them will help you lift your knees and is true to good running form. 

2. Butt Kicks

Butt kicks focus mainly on your hamstrings, helping them contract faster.

As a plyometric exercise, this works your cardiovascular system and builds endurance. Since they are explosive movements, this also builds your glutes and stretches out the quads at the same time. 

How to do it:

Important notes:

  • Hold your upper body and move your arms the same way you do for the High Knees. 
  • Pump your arms forward at a 90-degree angle and be sure to pump the opposite arm of the leg you’re kicking (e.g. If your right heel is touching your butt, pump your left arm forward). 
  • Gradually build up speed as you go, making sure you’ve got the right form first. 

3. Straight Leg Run

The Straight Leg focuses, not only on your hamstrings, but also on your ankle and toe positions as you land and raise your legs.

They can help you get the right mid-foot strike and improve your overall coordination. 

How to do it:

Important notes:

  • Don’t bend your knees at all (hence, the name ‘straight’). 
  • Point your toes upward (dorsiflexion) so that the feet can land mid-foot. 

4. Carioca

Although a bit more complicated to get the hang of, Carioca drills drastically improve your range of motion in the hips and between the arms and legs. 

How to do it:

Important notes:

  • As you cross your right foot in front of the left foot, shift the weight to the ball of your right foot. 
  • Once you move back to the starting position, cross the right foot behind the left, shifting the weight to the ball of the right foot. 

Top 4 Exercise Drills to Improve Running Speed

a man running over exercise knees up hoops

1. A-Skip

A-Skips build up lower leg strength while encouraging more efficient foot strikes. 

How to do it:

Important notes:

  • Get used to the drill by walking at first, then move up to the skip once you’ve figured it out. 
  • As you lift your knee, make sure it reaches all the way to your waist, while the back leg stays perfectly straight. 
  • Strike the ground with your mid-foot or forefoot. 

2. B-Skip

B-Skips improve the range of motion in your hip and ankle movements, help your feet grip the surface properly while running, and improve your coordination. 

How to do it:

See the video above for both A-Skip and B-Skip demonstrations. 

Important notes:

  • As you raise one leg, skip with the ball of your other foot. 
  • When the raised leg lands, grab the ground explosively so the ball of your foot hits below your center of mass and you stand on both feet. then quickly switch to the other leg. 

3. Single Leg Step Up

The Step Up is often used for sprinters since it improves your running mechanics of lower body explosiveness and mimics the same motion you use when sprinting. 

How to do it:

Important notes:

  • Use a box that allows your leg to bend at about 90 degrees. 
  • Be sure to keep your back foot behind the box, not beside the box, while your front foot is on top of the box. 
  • When you jump up, only use the front foot on top of the box. Be sure to drive the foot into the box, until it fully extends. 

Related: Benefits of Sprinting

4. Side Shuffle

Also known as the lateral shuffle, the Side Shuffle is an agility drill that builds up your lateral mobility and lateral speed. This is important because it helps you accelerate and decelerate quickly and stabilize yourself when running fast. 

How to do it:

Important notes: 

  • Step with your toes first and then use those toes to immediately propel yourself into the next step. 
  • These steps should go as fast as possible, so your heel barely touches the ground, if it all. 
a lady standing with one knee raised, with text saying '8 running drills for speed and running form', with text at the bottom of the image saying 'Marathon Handbook'
Photo of author
Mia Kercher is a hiker, cyclist, and runner. After finishing her first marathon in 2013, she continued the sport but found a new passion in trail running. She now explores the glorious mountains in Portland, Oregon.

1 thought on “8 Powerful Running Drills To Improve Your Speed and Running Form”

  1. I enjoyed the article and advice. I am turning 60 this year and have to have knee surgery in February, after the recovery period I will need all the running drills and strength exercises to build my body up again. I don’t want to run too soon.


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